Tunde Jegede was born in 1972 to painter/filmmaker (Galina Chester) and sculptor/poet (Taiwo Jegede) and at a very early age he began to write poetry. His father was the artist-in-resident at the Keskidee Centre (Britain's first Black Arts Centre) and there Tunde was surrounded by artists, writers, singers, poets and dancers such as Bob Marley, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Walter Rodney, Angela Davis, Edgar White, Eroll Lloyd and Len Garrison amongst many others. It was at the Keskidee that he first came across the Kora and was introduced to the instrument by the formidable Senegalese Kora Player Bouly Cissokho.
Tunde began in music by playing percussion and was performing in his father's poetry group from the age of three. When he was five he performed solo percussion live on Alex Pascall's 'Black Londoners'. Around this time he was also a chorister in a boy's choir that toured Cathedrals across the country.
Tunde first heard the Cello being demonstrated at his primary school and just as with the Kora, he was grabbed by the sound. After his parents split, his mother put a lot of energy into Tunde developing his musical gifts and despite financial difficulties got him private tuition on the Cello and he subsequently got awarded a bursary to attend the Purcell School of Music when he was nine years old. At this time he loved playing the Cello with his grandfather who was a Church Organist and he also gave him an appreciation of Bach's music.
Tunde was ten when he was invited to The Gambia to study The Griot Tradition with the Master of the Kora, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and his family. The Griot Tradition of the Mandinka People, which he became deeply immersed in, is a hereditary musical and cultural legacy that dates back at least to the 13th century.
Over the next two years Tunde toured with Amadu and subsequently his son Sanjally Jobarteh and they performed at the first Womad concert at ICA (83), the African Music Village at the Commonwealth Institute (84) as well as appearing on the new Channel 4 TV series 'Bachannal' (84). During this time Tunde and Sanjally met with African Dawn, a collective of poets, singers, musicians and political activists and they contributed a track to their album, 'Conversations'. Tunde also contributed to the album of the Nigerian Multi-percussionist, Gaspar Lawal's 'Abio Sunni' (85) and that of the Folk Balladerers, Ewain MaColl and Peggy Seeger, 'Black Wind, White Tide' (86).
Tunde performed regularly at The Africa Centre during the 80's and the scene included writers, artists and musicians such as the then political exile, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Ben Okri, Paul Gilroy, Armit Francis, Pitika Ntuli, Eugene Skeef, Dudu Pukwana and Russell Herman. Because of his pivotal position as a link between the Kora Players of West Africa, whose music was rising to prominence in UK, and the political and cultural underground scene of the African Diaspora he inadvertedly got caught up in the middle of this incongrous mix and it ended up with him being estranged from the Jobarteh family and all the other Kora playing families and unable to continue his studies on the Kora.
He wrote a book with his mother, entitled 'The Silenced Voice' (87) and subsequent articles in a Journal, 'Black Arts in London' (88), The Voice (89) and Africa Events (90), which caused a political furore on the African/World Music scene. He was threatened by 13 World Music Companies including Womad, Rogue Records and World Circuit with legal action and an injunction to prevent him from repeating 'libellous' statements regarding the systematic exploitation of visiting musicians, particularly those from the Kora Tradition.
Because of his forced isolation within the Griot Tradition he began to explore other areas of improvisatory music and he began to take a keen interest in Jazz, and particularly the music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. As a teenager he had already worked with the South African exiles Bheki Mseleku, Russell Herman, Eugene Skeef and Robert Sitole and he was particularly interested in exploring the connections between African Music and that of its Diaspora. He formed a Jazz trio with the Pianist, Benet Mclean, playing Cello as Bass, and Tunde also began to do arrangements of Miles Davis's 'So What' and The Jazz Warriors 'In Reference to our Forefathers Dreams', for Kora, Piano and Percussion, as well as his own pieces.
At the age of Sixteen Tunde was invited to a rehearsal of the Jazz Warriors and met and played with the then up and coming founding members including, Courtney Pine, Cleveland Watkiss, Orphy Robinson, Gary Crosby and Mark Mondesir. It was also around this time that he first met and played with the Producer and Percussionist, Talvin Singh who was then a member of Courtney Pine's band. Tunde then joined Ex-Jazz Warrior, Orphy Robinson's group, 'Anavas' and went on to form his own band, The Jazz Griots, whose recording featured Cleveland Watkiss, Rowland Sutherland and Gary Crosby.
Formed in 1990, Orphy Robinson's 'Anavas' project toured and performed in festivals right across UK and Europe over the next two years. They were also signed to Blue Note/EMI and produced two albums, 'When Tomorrow Comes' (91) and 'The Vibes Describes' (92). As a result of meeting and performing with the Brazilian Multi-Percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, Tunde was invited to contribute to the album of the percussionist Trilok Gurtu entitled, 'Living Magic' which was released on CMP records in 1991. In that same year he also contributed to the album of the Singer, Composer and incredible instrumentalist, Paul Reid playing Cello on the title track of his album.
His studies of the Cello and Western Classical Music had carried on in parrallel with all his other activities but there had never been a synthesis of his studying two distinct classical traditions. The first and only time up until this point that he had brought the Cello and Kora together was when he composed the music for a West-End production of 'Othello' in 1987, directed by Joseph Marcel. From this experience Tunde knew that creating new music was the only way he would be able to bring together all the disparate forces and elements that made up his unique soundworld.
After years of research and practical involvement with the Griot tradition of West Africa, as well its Diasporic progenitors, Tunde recognised some of the universal traits common to the African Cultural canon from its historical beginnings and origins right through to its most contemporary realisations. Having once again been embraced back into the Griot tradition by his Kora Master, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, Tunde needed an artform that could contain both the ancestral knowledge and wisdom with its contemporary manifestations and re-interpretations. Out of the observations, understanding, experience and appreciation of his cultural legacy emerged a new idiom, African Classical Music, which he had managed to access as a new concept of an old idea with a new mode of presentation.
Tunde finished studying at the Purcell School of Music in 1990 having studied Cello with Elma de Bruyne, Alfia Bekova and Joan Dickson and he then went on to the Guildhall School of Music for two years, studying with the Cellist, Raphael Wallfisch. Whilst at Guildhall he re-connected with the Nigerian Vocalist, Pianist and Composer Juwon Ogungbe and through him met the flautist, Jan Hendrickse with whom he set up his first African Classical Music Ensemble. In 1991 this ensemble undertook the first-ever Arts Council National tour and presentation of African Classical Music in UK. Over the next two years his ensemble performed extensively and made many appearances on both TV and Radio.
In the music for this ensemble Tunde wanted to bring together and re-constitute the relationship between the disparate elements of Composition and Improvisation within a new and wider definition of Classicism, which he felt was closer to the source and more embracing in its conception. The theoretical framework of the African Classical idiom was first developed by Tunde in an essay written for the premiere at The Purcell Room, South Bank Centre in 1991 with an inaugral Talk by the celebrated historian, Ron Ramdin. This eventually evolved into Tunde's definitive introductory book on the topic, entitled, 'African Classical Music, The Griot Tradition', published by Diabate Arts in 1994. This placed Tunde as the World's most foremost authority on this idiom, concept and cultural practice.
In 1992 he contributed to the album of the Soul Diva and Soul II Soul vocalist, Caron Wheeler on the track, 'Land of Life' from her album, 'War of a Beach Goddess' which was produced by one of the World's finest producers, the guitarist, writer and arranger, Derek Johnson. In that same year he also recorded for Orphy Robinson on a compilation album entitled, 'Protechnics' which featured some of the best talent from the early nineties Jazz scene including, Tony Remy, Joe Bashorun, Cleveland Watkiss and the Mondesir Brothers.
In 1993 he went on tour with Orphy Robinson's 'Anavas' on a British Council tour of Morocco and he came into contact with the music of the Gnawa for the first time and this had a profound impact on his music, for he saw the musical connections between their music and that of Mali. The whole trip was documented in a documentary by the Film-Maker Caroline Benesh entitled, 'Orphy in Morocco'.
In 1993 Tunde went to The Gambia with a BBC film crew to document his Kora Master, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, who was already in his nineties. This eventually became part of a much larger BBC2 documentary entitled, 'Africa I Remember' produced and directed by Paul Balmer of Music on Earth Productions. This 30-minute film focused primarily on Tunde's music and centred around his orchestral work, 'Cycle of Reckoning', which was the first composition ever written especially for Kora and Symphony Orchestra. It was performed by The London Sinfonietta with members of Tunde's African Classical Music Ensemble, and conducted by Markus Stenz.
In 1994 Tunde began to develop a body of works with fellow composer Paul Gladstone Reid in response to what they could see as a cultural vacuum of culturally representative repertoire for the legacy of the African Diaspora within the idiom of Contemporary Classical Composition. There were many highly trained and skilled players but no representative repertoire for them to perform and they now looked at creating a body of works to meet this need and create a solution.
In that year they began with Chamber works and decided to gradually move on through all the main formations and instrumentations so that all areas would eventually be covered right up to large-scale Music Theatre and Symphonic works. They knew it would probably take approximately ten years but it would be a long-term venture well worth doing. The first works to come out of the collaboration was an Electro-acoustic piece featuring the singer, Juwon Ogungbe and five concert pieces for Cello & Piano and Kora & Piano. These pieces were subsequently featured on a Radio 3 programme entitled, 'Hear and Now' presented by Ivan Hewitt and Verity Sharp. At this time Tunde also wrote a song-cycle for Soprano, Tenor and Piano Trio.
In 1995 in line with their cultural ethos they set up their own Record Label, Triciom Records, and released two of Tunde's albums, 'Lamentation (95) and 'Malian Royal Court Music' (96) which were distributed and manufactured by New Note. They also formed a partnership with the East London Choir and performed an extraordinary Concert of Bob Marley's 'Exodus' and a new work by Paul Gladstone Reid entitled 'African Zion', with a selection of chamber players from the Royal Academy of Music.
Later that year he collaborated with the Irish composer Micheal O'Suilleabhain, Evelyn Glennie and the Irish Chamber Orchestra performing with traditional Irish musicians, including the celebrated instrumentalist, Donal Lunny, for a TV series and subsequent album entitled 'River of Sound'. Both Tunde and his sister, Maya Jobarteh, were invited to contribute to the title track, 'River of Sound' which explored the connection between African and Irish music.
In 1996 Tunde was involved in 'Miracles', a huge innovative education initiative led by Paul Gladstone Reid and Mark Stephenson of London Musici. Spead across ten West London boroughs, this was a pioneering pilot project and the first of its kind, which paved the way for education policy nationwide within all the orchestras via the Arts Council. Tunde was given charge of the West London of Brent where he worked with young singers and rappers reconnecting with their new accent on the cultural legacy of the African Diaspora.
In this same year both Tunde and Paul were commissioned by the Chichester Festival to compose two new works for String Orchestra performed by the Royal Academy Chamber Orchestra. These two pieces drew from their deepening interest and awareness of the Hermetic Principles of Music and the related ideas and theories that music is a sonic mirror image and reflection of the wider universe.
On the contemporary side they created an electro-acoustic soundtrack for the choreographer Bode Lawal and his newly formed company, Sakoba Dance Theatre. In the exploration of these soundscapes, Tunde's skills as a producer began to emerge and this was further solidified in his music production for the celebrated contemporary dance company Union Dance, in 1997. In this production he brought together many of the singers and rappers from the 'Miracles' project but placed them in a wider musical context.
1997 also saw Tunde contribute to the rock/pop album of the songwriter and artist, Martin Okasili whose album gave him another chance to further explore the Irish/African Musical connection. The musical influences of the album reflected the unique heritage of the artist who was of African and Irish descent born in Belfast. The album was produced by Paul Gladstone Reid for Warner Music.
In 1998 Tunde was commissioned to compose a piece to commemorate the composer-violinist Joseph Antonio Emidy (1770-1835), which was part of a huge project involving Truro Cathedral, Hall for Cornwall and the Tate, St. Ives. The piece entitled 'The Spirit' was performed at Truro Cathedral and was scored for an Opera Soprano, a female Gospel Vocalist, Truro Cathedral Choir and Chamber Orchestra.
In 1999 he was commissioned to compose a Cello Concerto for the 'Rainbow over Bath' season, which included a huge education programme in four schools, the University of Bath and the University College of Bath music departments. It culminated in a concert of entirely original work for the chamber orchestra, Ensemble Esoterica, featuring special guests including the spoken word artist HKB FiNN, the opera soprano Anabelle Williams, the opera tenor Rodney Clarke, the DJ Cutmaster Swift, and the gospel singer Marion Power. The concert was held in the main university hall at the Michael Tippet Centre.
That year Tunde perfomed in an outdoor concert with both the Soul divas, Des'ree & Caron Wheeler besides Westminster Abbey, which was part of the Commonwealth Day celebrations. Later this same year he was appointed Innovations Composer for the Eastern Orchestral Board, which was a post he held from 1999-2002. This appointment brought him into projects with almost all the major orchestras in England over the three-year period and he developed a large new body of orchestral repertoire.
His first collaboration for the Eastern Orchestral Board was with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a project entitled, 'On the Edge', which included a six-month education programme across the Hertfordshire region and culminated in a performance with the RPO at the Dacorum Pavilion. Tunde's piece, 'Evolving Spheres', written for the orchestra and three guest musicians, including Cleveland Watkiss, had to draw from the work and material that was developed out of the workshops. The entire project was also interactive and on-line and available for educational use.
During 1999 Tunde also lead an education project with Glyn Evans and members of Britten Sinfonia to develop a band of amateur musicians to perform his new work, 'Pathways' with the full orchestra as part of the Norwich Arts festival. Tunde's own ensemble also performed in the Norwich festival for Random Dance Company, choreographed by Wayne Mcgreggor.
In 2000 he was specially commissioned by the Philhamonia Orchestra to write a Percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie & Double Orchestra, which was premiered at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and Bedford Town Hall. The Brodsky Quartet commissioned a string quartet from him as part of their 'Beethoven Op18' project which was subsequently recorded and released on the Vanguard label.
In the summer of that year Tunde directed an education project at Wingfield Arts Centre with Jan Hendrickse developing creative musicianship and compositional skills within schools. A concert was given to mark the opening of Wingfield's new performance space, which included a performance by members of the London Mozart Players, the school pupils as well as Tunde's own ensemble performing music from his 'Lamentation' album and a newly composed song-cycle for the Jazz vocalist, Jackie Dankworth. The project culminated in a collaborative piece created with the visual artists, Peter Fluck (formerly of Spitting Image) and Derek Richards of Hyperjam for the London Mozart Players. The piece entitled, 'Past, Present and Future' used Peter Fluck's moving sculpture as the inspiration for the motion of the music, which were then triggering the multi-media visuals of Derek Richards.
In 2001 Tunde was commissioned to write an Oratorio, including music and libretto for the City of Milton Keynes, which involved over 200 performers including: Opera Soprano and Soul Vocal soloists, the Drake music project, a school's choir, a symphony orchestra, a brass band and a rhythm section. In the same year Viva Sinfonia and their conductor, Nicholas Kok invited him to do a concert at Derby Assembly Rooms centred around his work. They performed several of his orchestral pieces including, 'Cycle of Reckoning' and 'Let the Elements Sing and Dance'.
During that year Tunde was commissioned by the award-winning production company, Blackside Inc., to compose the soundtrack for the two-hour documentary film, Hopes on The Horizon, which was broadcast in the U.S on PBS Television. Directed by the film-maker, Onyekachi Wambu, 'Hopes on the Horizon' featured the world-renowned Malian singers, Kasse Mady Diabate and Oumou Sangare performing with the African Classical Music Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra for the first time.
In 2002 he was invited, by the composer and conductor, Dirk Brosse, to perform a revised version of 'Cycle of Reckoning' for the Belgian National Symphony Orchestra in several concerts around Belgium. In UK he performed his piece 'Let the Elements Sing and Dance' for a VSO concert at the Royal Festival Hall with the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Kok.
That year he was much in demand as a performer and performed with Damon Albarn and Afel Bocoum at the Barbican Centre as part of Albarn's 'Mali Cool' project. He was then on the road with Courtney Pine as part of the commonwealth games celebrations performing with his specially selected collective of international musicians chosen for the occasion. The tour included performances at the Royal Festival Hall, (London) Bridgewater Hall, (Manchester), De Montfort Hall (Leicester) Colston Hall (Bristol) and Albert Hall (Brighton).
Tunde's own ensemble performed at the Royal Festival Hall in a double-bill with the Malian Artist, Habib Koite as part of the Africa Day celebrations organised by the Africa Centre. 2002 was also the year that Tunde saw his first album release solely as a producer when he produced the album 'Vitalistics' for the rapper HKB FiNN which was released on Son Records.
In 2003 Tunde went to Accra in Ghana to collaborate with Nana Danso and the Pan-African Orchestra, performing works of the Nigerian composer and enigmatic performer Fela Ransome Kuti. That year Tunde also toured extensively in UK and Europe for various artists as well as his own work. Highlights of the year included his work in Europe with the vocalist, Cleveland Watkiss, and in France with the composer/producer Talvin Singh. Tunde contributed string arrangements to Cleveland's album 'Victory's Happy Songbook', which was released on the German label, Infracom. His concert with Talvin for the St. Dennis Festival at the Basilique in Paris was recorded for French Radio and subsequently released on the Naive record label.
In 2004 Tunde took his own ensemble to Paris to perform in the St. Denis Festival, which was filmed by the American Film-maker Ron Wyman for a documentary on Tunde's music. This will be part of a larger T.V. series which focuses on composers from different cultures around the world to be broadcast in 2006.
In the same year Tunde contributed to two albums. The first was an album by the singer/songwriter Siji for whom Tunde did a string arrangement on the track 'Sanctuary' which was released on the BBE Record label. The second was a string arrangement and contribution on Kora for the singer/songwriter Misty Oldland on her single 'Orange Fox'. He went on to do several more string arrangements and performed Kora on various tracks on the rest of her album, 'Forest Soul' which was released on her own label, Mistic Discs.
2005 saw Tunde's second outing solely as a producer on the album, 'Acoustic Afro Hip Hop' for the Rapper HKB FiNN released by Savage Music/Alternative Studios. It also saw him complete his second film soundtrack for the documentary -film, '500 Years Later' which won best documentary at the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival, the Bridgetown Film Festival and the Berlin International Black Cinema Film Festival.
During that year he went to Senegal to participate in a Composer Symposium initiated by the Prince Claus Foundation where they selected four composers from around the world to create and develop four original operas to be performed in full including costume within eight days. They then commissioned him and the three other composers to create and develop the first-ever 'Sahel Opera' to be premiered in Bamako, Mali in 2006 and then all over Europe.
The story continues .....